Guest Feature

Planning for Transitions – Big and Small

By Brent Rivard, Managing Director

Brent RivardHappy almost the end of summer! Though there are things that the Rivard Family misses about being mostly home last summer, it has been great to be able to travel again.

One of our trips this year only included three-fifths of the family with Laura, Cooper (our 17 year-old rising high school senior) and me exploring the country on a whirlwind college tour. We had a fun and exhausting week traveling across the south, northeast and back to California visiting a lot of schools and helping Cooper narrow down his list for this next life phase. Laura and I found ourselves emotional on the trip as we prepare for our own next life phase. It all got me thinking about transitions, both big and small, and how to prepare to make them successful.

Small transitions happen every day, but we may not think about them as transitions. Every morning we transition from asleep in bed to awake and ready to tackle the day. We transition from home life to work life and back, sometimes multiple times per day. I feel myself rapidly transitioning from business leader to parent and back again each day more often than I can keep track of. Even in our business lives, we make transitions throughout the day from focusing on our primary businesses to potentially board work or other causes.

For each of these small transitions, there is a common theme. The better prepared we are for the transition, the easier and more successful it can be. Sometimes we prepare with intention – we study up and make sure we are ready. Sometimes we lean on our experiences or learn from others experiences to transition smoothly. And sometimes we just wing it – or rely on coffee when it comes to that transition from sleep…

LaptopFor the larger transitions, I believe that greater preparedness is the key to success. At Pathfinder, we find ourselves with large transitions in our business every day. The transition from pursuing a property to owning it comes with an incredible number of transitions. For example, when we acquire a property, we transition from pursuer to owner. We take on new debt with lenders, we transition old property management to new property management and within Pathfinder we transition the property from our acquisition team to our asset management team. Even though we’ve now done this over 130 times, it’s still important to not only rely on experience, but also intentional and careful preparation. We use detailed due diligence checklists and closing checklists, create document folders, commission extensive property condition reports and hold multiple transition meetings to dot the “I’s” and cross the “T’s”. We’re definitely not winging it!

ComputerAs I thought about this transition for Cooper (and us!) to college, I started thinking about the transition processes that have made Pathfinder successful and, what do you know?? – there is a lot of overlap in our approach for successful large transitions:

  • Gather Data: Reliable data is important to understand and analyze in any transition. At Pathfinder, we use a combination of third-party data combined with our own market knowledge and experience to drive successful acquisition transitions. There is almost too much data on colleges available to review and digest but we’ve done our best to look for reliable, independent third-party data to help with Cooper’s decision.
  • Bring in the Experts and Rely on Others’ Experiences: I’ve always been a big believer in hiring and relying on experts to help make decisions and transitions. What I do know, is that I don’t know what I don’t know! For Cooper, we engaged an expert college guidance counselor to help us make the best decision. We’ve also spent a lot of time talking to other parents and college students to help make informed decisions. At Pathfinder, we have always relied on third-party experts to help us make acquisitions. From property managers to property condition consultants, these experts have helped us make good purchases and avoid bad ones.
  • Set Expectations and Goals: It would be hard to measure success if you didn’t first set some expectations and goals. For Pathfinder, we create detailed budgets to establish expectations for investor returns and the timing of those returns. It helps us measure success or give us early warnings for required pivots or changes. For college planning, it’s not as quantitative but we’ve been setting goals based on college reputation, majors available, location and a variety of other factors. Success will be measured by acceptance into a school, but also the overall college experience.
  • Execute Your Transition But Have a Plan B: Once you’ve developed your well-thought-out plan using the above tactics, it’s time to execute your transition. At Pathfinder, we use checklists and processes we’ve developed over the last 15 years to both execute our acquisitions, but also have backup plans if it doesn’t go exactly as planned. It will come as no surprise that we have a checklist we are executing on for Cooper’s college planning and we will have plenty of backup plans and schools ready for his big transition.

Earlier this year I wrote about our approach to Pathfinder’s business during the pandemic. We “Acted Quickly but Decided Slowly” in everything we did as a business over the last 18 months. There were dozens of small and large transitions that we made since March 2020 and for most of them, we employed many of the above strategies to make them successful. The transition from in-office to at-home working and the transition from a focus on occupancy to a focus on rent collection, to name just a couple of the major transitions. In each of them, we employed the strategies above to reduce risk, increase success and feel confident in our decisions.

Fingers crossed for Cooper that our approach to his big transition is successful. I’m sure he will be fine. It’s me who will struggle no matter where he goes. Check in with me early next year to see how it is all working out. I’ll be preparing for the real impactful part of this process as one-fifth of the Rivard family sets off on his own adventures.

Brent Rivard is Managing Director, CFO and COO of Pathfinder Partners, LP. Prior to joining Pathfinder in 2008, Brent was the President of a national wealth management firm and CFO/COO of a one of southern California’s leading privately-held commercial real estate brokerage firms. He can be reached at

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